Editor’s Note: Ethan Zimmerman is a junior at Ohio Northern University where he heard the call to become a pastor. He plans to attend seminary after graduation. His grandfather, the Rev. Jerry Rhea, a NALC pastor, has encouraged Ethan to apply to the NALS.
Recently, I was sitting in my car after class, listening to music on random shuffle, and eating Taco Bell, when the song, “Hands On” from Kanye West’s album, JESUS IS KING, started playing. I sat there listening to it, really listening, instead of passively enjoying it as I do with most music, and I had a revelation.
First, let me give you some context about Kanye West. For those who don’t know, he is a famous hip hop/rap star who has written many songs that hit the top of the charts; many of those songs are quite vulgar. Recently, Kanye took a 180 degree turn and wrote a gospel album. It received both surprised and mixed reviews from the secular music world and from Christians — many people thought he had lost his mind. Kanye is currently married to Kim Kardashian, a popular reality TV star. They recently split and a divorce appears imminent.
Now why do I bring this up? Why did I entitle this, “Pray for Kanye”? I did so because I have something in common with Kanye. Over the past year or so, I have been doing a lot of introspection, analyzing my life and the path that God has set me on. I am a junior in college and plan to go to seminary to become a pastor. My time in university has been quite formative as I transitioned from childhood into adulthood while growing in my faith. I have made decisions that cost me friends because I didn’t want to do things or go along with decisions that would jeopardize or go against my faith. It has been quite the perilous journey, but I would have it no other way for, as Paul says in Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (ESV).
What I see in common with Kanye and myself is that Kanye is going through a formative time in his life too and his faith is also under attack. I am certain that his faith is the reason for the criticism that he received for making this gospel album and for the split between him and his wife. Before Kanye converted and made his faith public, he had it all: money, power and a reality TV star wife. To the world, what more could a man desire? His decision to go public with his faith and to step away from making vulgar hip-hop is a decision that could very well jeopardize what the world sees as success.
These “Hands On” lyrics express Kanye’s worries and anxieties:
“Told people God was my mission
What have you been hearin’ from the Christians?
They’ll be the first one to judge me
Make it feel like nobody love me.”
To feel alone, because people don’t like that I am following God, is something that I’ve felt before and it is quite the agonizing feeling. I found Kanye’s plea profound as he rapped, “Somebody pray for me.” As someone who has been in his shoes, I can’t help but empathize with him.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding Kanye West and his faith, from the secular world not liking it, calling him crazy, to various Christians criticizing him and calling his faith fake. I think we, the Church, the disciples of Christ, should forget all of that and do what Kanye asks of us — pray for him. He is going through an extremely difficult time and he is at a fork in the road in his walk with God. He could abandon it all, return to the secular world, dance to Satan’s tune, do what man thinks is right, or he could persevere and continue to walk with God, even if the world thinks differently, even if it costs him everything he had before.
Regardless of what you think of Kanye West, I encourage you to join me in praying for him. Pray that he follows the Lord, uses his fame and popularity to spread the Gospel, and that his heart would be good soil.
I leave you with a verse I find encouraging as a reminder that there is always power in prayer. From the second half of James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (ESV).